Monthly Archives: May 2015

Love^3

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Love^3

Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a novel with a love triangle. I had a really hard time trying to find one that interested me and was a bit different than what I normally read. I love that this challenge has really pushed my out of my reading comfort zone to try things I would never have picked up before. I’ve found out like I like science fiction and fantasy more than I used to think I did, I’m reading more classic novels, and I’m browsing sections of the library I’ve never been down. If nothing else, this Book Battle has been thoroughly enlightening and it’s been amazing to share it with all of you.

But, I digress. Back to the book. The novel I chose is Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. The book centers on Tommy, Ruth, and Cathy as they go through Halisham, a private school in the English countryside. From the back cover, it sounds like this is going to be a coming of age story with a twist. I’ve heard that the twist is very good and I can’t wait to find out what it is. Many list the book as a science fiction/fantasy so I’m thinking the twist might have something to do with that. Apparently there’s also a movie with Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, and Carey Mulligan. That is going to have to happen after I read this novel! How I wish Blockbuster was still a thing. Now we rely on Redbox and Netflix which just don’t have everything you want to watch.

Stay tuned for the review of Never Let Me Go. Happy reading!

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Suddenly, Last Summer

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Suddenly, Last Summer

Suddenly, Last Summer is a play of predators and prey. Each circling the other trying to take stock of their surroundings and how best to play off and use the the other. The opening scene foreshadows perfectly how the rest of the play will unfold. In Sebastian Venable’s garden decorated with “massive tree flowers that suggest organs of a body, torn out, still glistening with undried blood.” Noises of screeching birds and hissing insects emanate form the garden, stirring up feelings of foreboding in the reader. That’s when we’re introduced to Mrs. Violet Venable, Sebastian’s mother. She’s talking to a Dr. Cukrowicz about a Miss Catherine Holly, the woman last seen with Sebastian before his death. Instead of taking his ill mother along on his travels, Sebastian took his cousin by marriage Catherine. While on vacation, Sebastian died mysteriously and Catherine has been spouting a damning story that Violet refuses to believe. She asks the doctor if a lobotomy will erase the story from her mind. He says that before he can decide he must interview Catherine and hear the story she has to tell.

This is when things get even hairier. The play is short but jam-packed with images and illusions. Nothing is quite as it seems and everything has a dual meaning. During Catherine’s story we learn a lot about cousin Sebastian and his mother that Violet would rather not have others know. Sebastian and his mother have a sort of Norma Norman Bates relationship. It’s symbiotic, each feeding off the other for something they need that’s definitely a tainted type of love. Even after his death, Violet wants to claim all of Sebastian and paints an image of him that she desires, no matter how truthful an image that is. She wants to believe he was a world class poet that did everything for his art. She’s created this image of Sebastian as more of a living art form than a mere human being.

Art plays a big part in the play. The art of deception and manipulation. In a way, Sebastian is devoured by his own art. He’s destroyed himself through his own ideas and proclivities. Sebastian uses those around him in whatever way suits him in the moment. He continually wants an entourage of adoring people around him but has a hard time acquiring them. That was what Catherine was for. She was there to acquire the people he wanted. She says in the play that Sebastian considered people to be treats. Some were delicious while other were vile.

I don’t want to spoil the play or the ending. This is a must read. It’s short but powerful. The scenes, just like the movie, will play around and around in your head while you try to piece together all of the images to form one cohesive whole. Just like Catherine is traumatized by the image of Sebastian’s death, I had a hard time putting the play out of my mind.

Rating: 5/5

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015.

Putting on a Show

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Putting on a Show

Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a play. There was no second guessing for me this time. I knew the play I wanted to read as I read the category for the first time. I saw the movie for Suddenly, Last Summer when I was in high school. My mom got me hooked on classic movies from an early age. I remember staying up late at night watching TCM with her. This movie, in particular, has always stuck with me because it was so jarring. It terrified me in a way, much like The Innocents based on Henry James’s short story The Turn of the Screw. The movie was so psychologically unnerving, dealing with the thin line between reality and fantasy, keeping you on the edge of your seat. I have the image of Elizabeth Taylor screaming as birds fly by on this white hot strip of asphalt forever stuck in my head. As well as Katherine Hepburn wheeling a wheelchair through a lush tropical garden.

It’s because I remember scenes from this movie so vividly that I decided to read the play. The fact that Tennessee Williams is one of the greatest playwrights of his generation is definitely an added bonus. Stay tuned to see how the movie stacks up to the play. Happy reading!

The 19th Wife

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The 19th Wife

When I first picked out this book I had no idea how hard it would be to write a review of. While this book is a fiction work, it is based on a true story of the Mormon church and Ann Eliza Young’s marriage to Brigham Young and then her apostasy. Ebershoff said in his acknowledgements page that he did fill in a lot of gaps in the story with his own fictional elements but that much of it, the Ann Eliza Young section, is based on her memoir Wife No. 19. 

The novel is told in many different narrative styles and voices from an academic scholar’s paper, letters, diary entries, and even a Wikipedia page. I thought that adding so many different elements really spiced up the narrative and kept me thoroughly enticed. Not knowing very much about the Mormon church and it’s foundations, I found this book fascinating. Looking at a religions origins and how different people built it up to what we know it as today is captivating. Ebershoff does a wonderful job of taking each character and transporting them into his fictional world. Each characters has such a powerful and distinct voice, based largely on the author’s extensive research.

At the time this book came out it was extremely topical. A year before the novel was published the YFZ, or Yearning for Zion, Ranch was raided after the authorities received a call from a 16 year old girl claiming physical and sexual abuse. This ranch, run by the Jeffs, who are now imprisoned, was much like the Firsts in Ebershoffs novel. They were an off shoot of the Mormon church who left to pursue what they consider true Mormonism as preached by Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, mainly polygamy. In the novel, the Firsts broke off of the Mormon church in 1890 after anti-polygamy laws were passed. They believed that true Mormonism must include polygamy since it was passed down from the Prophet. Many believed that if this edict could be changed what else about the Mormon faith could be edited?

In the present day sections of the novel, Jordan Scott represents one of the Firsts who was excommunicated for holding a girls hand. He was banned from coming back and dropped on the highway to fend for himself. After Jordan hears that his mother is on trial for shooting his father, he travels back to Utah, a place he thought he would never see again, to find out if she did it or not. What ensues is an amazing battle of belief and truth, intertwined with Ann Eliza Young’s experiences as a plural wife.

The novel does an amazing job of exploring the tenacity of belief and the lengths people will go to retain and uphold their belief system. It poses many questions about the mysteries of faith and how it can both uplift and corrupt. For anyone interested in religions, heretics, and origins this is the novel for you.

Rating: 4/5

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015.

Crunching the Numbers

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Crunching the Numbers

Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a book with a number in the title. I was originally going to read a different book for this category but when I was in the library this book caught my eye. The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff is a novel with a dual narrative about the origins of the Mormon religion and a current day Mormon sect in Utah. I’ve heard about this book before and it comes highly recommended by a good friend of mine and her aunt, who has spectacular taste in novels. I couldn’t resist. I picked it up immediately and checked it out.

I’m very interested to hear more about the dual narratives and how they are going to connect. From the back cover, the story is going to center around Brigham Young’s 19th wife, Ann Eliza Young, and the 19th wife in the current Mormon sect who supposedly shot her husband. The wife in the present day part of the book has a son who was excommunicated who comes back into contact with the sect in order to prove her mother’s innocence and find out what happened to his father. Did she or didn’t she? Wait for the review to find out!

Happy reading!

The Little Sister

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The Little Sister

“The play was over. I was sitting in an empty theater. The curtain was down and projected on it dimly I could see the action. But already some of the actors were getting vague and unreal.”

Chandler writes about the detective and his city as opposed to detection as many classic mystery novelists. Marlowe’s city is Los Angeles, a place where dreams are made and broken. This quote really hit me from The Little Sister. To me it sums of the ambivalence of Los Angeles, especially in comparison to other cities. Everything has a tinge of the unreal. Everyone is an actor and everywhere is a stage. It’s hard to tell where reality and fiction cross and intertwine. Life is a movie set with a script that is rarely deviated from. This theme resonates throughout the novel. Many characters comment on casting of characters in the novel and lines they feel they must say. For example, when Mavis Weld, one of the main female characters in the novel and an actress, is talking to Marlowe she says: “I can’t think of any lines tonight.” And Marlowe replies, “It’s the technicolor dialogue.” Meaning this is real life, not a movie set. The line has been blurred and crossed and Mavis Weld wasn’t even aware of it. She can’t rely on a script to keep her steady.

This novel doesn’t have as much plot as some of the other Marlowe mysteries, instead focusing more on Marlowe himself, his relationships, and his relationship to the city he loves and hates. Marlowe is particularly down in this novel looking for connection in all the wrong places. One thing I’ve always loved about this detective is he doesn’t solve mysteries because of his superior intellect. He manages to solve cases through dogged determination.

All of Chandler’s characters have this kind of determination in one way or another. They live hard and die hard. They live wildly and eventually must pay the price. There isn’t much sunshine in Marlowe’s world. The Little Sister plays up the trope of the femme fatale more than any other Chandler novel I’ve read thus far. The women in this novel as in charge. They are the puppeteers pulling the strings. They hold the power and remain in the background to play their scenes.

I’m not going to give away the reveal, it’s pretty darn awesome, but will say you won’t be disappointed. The Little Sister is a novel about the underbelly of society and the blurring of lines. There are gangsters, Hollywood screen sirens, and down on their luck cops. Marlowe doesn’t set the world to rights and find the sun, but he does wait around for the finale.

Rating: 5/5

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

Top Ten Tuesday

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Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish, is the top ten authors you’d love to meet. I’ve had the chance to meet a few authors and, let me tell you, it’s kind of terrifying and nerve wracking. It’s also exhilarating meeting the person who’s brain spawned something you love but it’s so hard trying to talk intelligently when all you want to say is, “I love you so much.” But for this weeks theme I’m going to hold it together. Without further ado, these are the authors I would love to meet (on some plane):

1. Jane Austen

First of all I think Jane Austen would be hilarious in real life just like she is in her books. I love some irony and sarcasm. I would also love to ask her what she thinks of all of these Pride and Prejudice spin off books.

2. Daphne du Maurier

This is one of the authors I would be most intimidated to meet. She’s such an amazing talent I don’t know if I could even form words. I’ve read so many of her novels and watched the movie adaptations I would love to just listen to her talk and see how her brain works.

3. Raymond Chandler

Another author I would be really intimated to meet. Chandler’s writing style is, to me, perfection. He can write a sentence with a bang like no one else.

4. Nova Ren Suma

One of the authors I’ve just recently discovered, Nova Ren Suma is absolutely amazing. Her writing is so lyrical and just immerses you in a wave of words. I would love to talk to her about writing technique and how to craft the perfect YA novel.

5. Joan Didion

This lady saw so many amazing events in her life. I would love to talk to her about the time she spent in the Haight in the 60s and what the experience was like.

6. R.L. Stine/Christopher Pike

Once again I group these two together because in my childhood I loved them like the same person. I would love to talk to them together about their writing styles and if there ever was any competition between the two in their chosen genres. I also want to know how they’re able to produce such a large body of work.

7. Oscar Wilde

This is one author who knew how to live it up. I think that if you met him in real life he would just be a crack up and charm you with his wit and intelligence.

8. Truman Capote

I would love to meet the mind that spawned such masterpieces as Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood. He was truly one of the best literary voices of his generation.

9. Tana French

Her Dublin murder squad series just keeps getting better. Each novel has kept me on the edge of my seat. I would love to find out what her inspirations are.

10. Agatha Christie

Last, but certainly not least, I would love to meet the queen of all suspense and the mother of the Golden Age mystery. What happened to you during those 11 days and where did you go?

Who are some of the authors you’d love to meet?